Beware of knee deformities in children

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BY ISAAC GABRIEL OTUK

Knee deformities are common in children. Some can be corrected if the parents notice them early and seek medical attention.

The following are some of the common knee deformities:

Genu valgum (knock knees)

This is commonly called knock-knee condition. It affects the lower limbs in children and adolescents. This kind of deformity is common in growing children and is likely to appear by three or four years of age.

Cases of  Genu valgum  are caused by physiological changes in the body. This can be due to diseases. Genu valgum can also be a result of post-traumatic injury and renal osteodystrophy which may require treatment.

Some parents may assume that knock knees in children is a result of a torsional combination in utero positioning (poor positioning while in the uterus), which is false.

Treatment

This deformity can be corrected by spontaneous normal adult knee alignment, and has to be done between five to eight years of age.

Girls tend to have consistent genu valgum (knock knees) alignment, which means that they are more likely to carry on the condition into adulthood even as they go through complete musculoskeletal growth. Boys, however, tend to have a decreasing valgus alignment, so the condition often disappears by approximately 16 years of age. Thus, men have less valgus at maturity than do women.

Genu varum (bow legs)

This is an angular lower limb deformity occurring in children, and it is commonly referred to as bow legs. This is caused by poor positioning of the fetus while in the uterus. Bow legs are usually associated with a toe-in gait, due to medial tibial bone torsion.

While the child is standing, the lower extremities appear bowed. However, physical examination demonstrates excessive lateral rotation of the extended hip and medial tibial torsion. Contracture of the posterior capsule is a normal finding in children up to one year of age.

Treatment

The condition tends to improve during the first three years of life, and ultimately medial rotation slightly exceeds lateral rotation.

The author is an orthopaedic specialist

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